The music-streaming battle between Apple Music and Spotify isn’t just about which one has the Taylor Swift album: it’s about which one has the best playlists, and the ability to recommend them to the listeners who’ll love them.
Apple Music made a strong start on the first of those: the service has won plaudits for its deep collection of programmed playlists. Now Spotify is fighting back on a related front: personalisation.
Spotify is launching a feature called Discover Weekly, a new playlist of “new discoveries and deep cuts” for each of its 75 million users, based on their tastes and those of people like them.
Each user’s playlist will be automatically updated every Monday with a new set of tracks, with Spotify encouraging them to save the songs they like to their personal collections or other playlists.
“We wanted to make something that felt like your best friend making you a mixtape, labelled ‘music you should check out’, every single week,” said product manager Matthew Ogle, who co-founded music-discovery startup This Is My Jam before joining Spotify in January.
The more people listen, the better attuned their Discover Weekly playlist will be to their tastes, claimed Ogle, who stressed that it will also fling a few aural curveballs at users along the way.
“Some weeks, your recent listening will nudge it in new directions, and in other weeks, Discover Weekly might be the one doing the nudging,” he said.
Discover Weekly fits neatly into an under-reported aspect of the competition between Spotify and Apple: their respective abilities to understand people’s tastes and behaviour, and serve up music accordingly.
For Apple Music, that’s reflected in the playlists suggested in its app’s “For You” section, with the promise that they’ll get more and more relevant the more each user listens.
For Spotify, this is also about its recently launched “Now” homescreen, which suggests playlists based on each user’s habits, as well as the time of day.
In both cases, it’s also the latest sign that playlists – whether compiled by experts or algorithms – are an increasingly-important format for music listening, alongside the traditional album.
Music-streaming services are also hoping that playlists and personalisation will boost streams of music from emerging artists as well as established stars, after regular criticism that they are only sustainable for the latter as an income.
Spotify said Weekly will not be influenced by the company’s marketing partnerships with music labels. While it has worked with labels to “power-seed” new artists’ tracks in playlists programmed by its editorial team, that will not expand to the new personalised playlist.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th July 2015 14.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010